GOOD BYE APRIL SHOWERS...HELLO, MAY FLOWERS!
As we head into May and eventually into June, we are moving towards the theatre's awards season! The Drama Desk Awards normally give a few clues towards what the Tony race will look like. Well, here goes...
Musical "9 to 5" leads Drama Desk nominations!
Musical "9 to 5" racked up 15 noms for the 54th annual Drama Desk Awards, the most of any Broadway or Off Broadway production ever nominated by the legit org.
Sad news...The theatre lost three very influential people right at the end of April.
Bea Arthur, Marilyn Cooper, and Tharon Musser.
Tharon Musser, 84, a Tony-winning lighting designer of more than 100 Broadway shows, including such legendary musicals as A Chorus Line, Dreamgirls, Mame, and 42nd Street, has died.
I was lucky enough to see Marilyn Cooper in WOMAN OF THE YEAR with Raquel Welch. She stopped the show with "THE GRASS IS ALWAYS GREENER" by Fred Ebb and John Kander.
She won a well-deserved Tony for that role. Marilyn Cooper (December 14, 1934 – April 22, 2009) was an American actress, known primarily for her work on the Broadway stage.
And then there's Bea.
I actually remember that incredible appearance on ALL IN THE FAMILY where we were introduced to Maude Findley. Her performance was so well-received that Norman Lear immediantly went into production on Maude starring Bea Arthur, Bill Macy, Conrad Baine, Rue McClanahan and Andraine Barbeau. We sadly lost Bea last week.
And float away
Into the night
The milky way
You'll hear me call
As we ascend
I'll say your name
Then once again
Thank you for being a friend" -- Andrew Gold
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Beatrice Arthur, the tall, deep-voiced actress whose
razor-sharp delivery of comedy lines made her a TV star in the hit shows
''Maude'' and ''The Golden Girls'' and who won a Tony Award for the
musical ''Mame,'' died Saturday. She was 86.
Arthur died peacefully at her Los Angeles home with her family at herside, family spokesman Dan Watt said.
She had cancer, Watt said, declining to give details.
''She was a brilliant and witty woman,'' said Watt, who was Arthur's
personal assistant for six years. ''Bea will always have a special place
in my heart.'' Arthur first appeared in the landmark comedy series ''All in the
Family'' as Edith Bunker's outspoken, liberal cousin, Maude Finley.
She proved a perfect foil for blue-collar bigot Archie Bunker (Carroll
O'Connor), and their blistering exchanges were so entertaining that
producer Norman Lear fashioned Arthur's own series. In a 2008 interview with The Associated Press, Arthur said she was lucky to be discovered by TV after a long stage career, recalling with
bemusement CBS executives asking about the new ''girl.''
''I was already 50 years old. I had done so much off-Broadway, on Broadway, but they said, `Who is that girl?
Let's give her her own series,''' Arthur said.
''Maude'' scored with television viewers immediately on its CBS debut in
September 1972, and Arthur won an Emmy Award for the role in 1977.
The comedy flowed from Maude's efforts to cast off the traditional restraints that women faced, but the series often had a serious base.
Her husband Walter (Bill Macy) became an alcoholic, and she underwent an
abortion, which drew a torrent of viewer protests. Maude became a
standard bearer for the growing feminist movement in America.
The ratings of ''Maude'' in the early years approached those of its
parent, ''All in the Family,'' but by 1977 the audience started to
dwindle. A major format change was planned, but in early 1978 Arthur
announced she was quitting the show.
''It's been absolutely glorious; I've loved every minute of it,'' she
''But it's been six years, and I think it's time to leave.''
''Golden Girls'' (1985-1992) was another groundbreaking comedy, finding
surprising success in a television market increasingly skewed toward a younger, product-buying audience.
The series concerned three retirees -- Arthur, Betty White and Rue
McClanahan -- and the mother of Arthur's character, Estelle Getty, who
lived together in a Miami apartment. In contrast to the violent ''Miami
Vice,'' the comedy was nicknamed ''Miami Nice.''
As Dorothy Zbornak, Arthur seemed as caustic and domineering as Maude.
She was unconcerned about the similarity of the two roles. ''Look -- I'm 5-feet-9, I have a deep voice and I have a way with a line,'' she told
an interviewer. ''What can I do about it? I can't stay home waiting for
something different. I think it's a total waste of energy worrying about
The interplay among the four women and their relations with men fueled
the comedy, and the show amassed a big audience and 10 Emmys, including
two as best comedy series and individual awards for each of the stars.
McClanahan said Arthur felt constrained by the show during its later
years and in 1992 she announced she was leaving ''Golden Girls.''
''Bea liked to be the star of the show, she didn't really like to do
that ensemble playing,'' McClanahan said.
McClanahan first worked with Arthur on ''Maude,'' playing her best
friend, Vivian. The women quickly became close friends in real life.
McClanahan recalled Arthur as a kind and caring person with a
no-nonsense edge. The three other stars returned in ''The Golden Palace,'' but it lasted
only one season.
Arthur was born Bernice Frankel in New York City in 1922. When she was
11, her family moved to Cambridge, Md., where her father opened a
clothing store. At 12 she had grown to full height, and she dreamed of
being a petite blond movie star like June Allyson. There was one
advantage of being tall and deep-voiced: She was chosen for the male roles in school plays.
Bernice -- she hated the name and adopted her mother's nickname of Bea
- overcame shyness about her size by winning over her classmates with
wisecracks. She was elected the wittiest girl in her class. After two
years at a junior college in Virginia, she earned a degree as a medical
lab technician, but she ''loathed'' doing lab work at a hospital. Acting held more appeal, and she enrolled in a drama course at the New School of Social Research in New York City. To support herself, she sang
in a night spot that required her to push drinks on customers.
During this time she had a brief marriage that provided her stage name
of Beatrice Arthur. In 1950, she married again, to Broadway actor and
future Tony-winning director Gene Saks.
After a few years in off-Broadway and stock company plays and television
dramas, Arthur's career gathered momentum with her role as Lucy Brown in the 1955 production of ''The Threepenny Opera.''
In 2008, when Arthur was inducted in the TV Academy Hall of Fame, Arthur
pointed to the role as the highlight of her long career.
''A lot of that had to do with the fact that I felt, `Ah, yes, I belong
here,''' Arthur said.
More plays and musicals followed, and she also sang in nightclubs and
played small roles in TV comedy shows.
Then, in 1964, Harold Prince cast her as Yente the Matchmaker in the
original company of ''Fiddler on the Roof.''
Arthur's biggest Broadway triumph came in 1966 as Vera Charles, Angela
Lansbury's acerbic friend in the musical ''Mame,'' directed by Saks.
Richard Watts of the New York Post called her performance ''a portrait
in acid of a savagely witty, cynical and serpent-tongued woman.''
She won the Tony as best supporting actress and repeated the role in the
unsuccessful film version that also was directed by Saks, starring Lucille Ball as Mame. Arthur would play a variation of Vera Charles in
''Maude'' and ''The Golden Girls.''
''There was no one else like Bea,'' said ''Mame'' composer Jerry Herman.
''She would make us laugh during `Mame' rehearsals with a look or with a
word. She didn't need dialogue. I don't know if I can say that about any other person I ever worked with.''
In 1983, Arthur attempted another series, ''Amanda's,'' an Americanized
version of John Cleese's hilarious ''Fawlty Towers.'' She was cast as
owner of a small seaside hotel with a staff of eccentrics.
It lasted a
mere nine episodes.
Between series, Arthur remained active in films and theater. Among the
movies: ''That Kind of Woman'' (1959), ''Lovers and Other Strangers'' (1970), Mel Brooks' ''The History of the World: Part I'' (1981), ''For
Better or Worse'' (1995).
The plays included Woody Allen's ''The Floating Light Bulb'' and ''The
Bermuda Avenue Triangle,'' written by and costarring Renee Taylor and
Joseph Bologna. During 2001 and 2002 she toured the country in a
one-woman show of songs and stories, ''... And Then There's Bea.''
Arthur and Saks divorced in 1978 after 28 years. They had two sons,
Matthew and Daniel. In his long career, Saks won Tonys for ''I Love My Wife,'' ''Brighton Beach Memoirs'' and ''Biloxi Blues.'' One of his Tony
nominations was for ''Mame.''
In 1999, Arthur told an interviewer of the three influences in her
career: ''Sid Caesar taught me the outrageous; (method acting guru) Lee Strasberg taught me what I call reality; and ('Threepenny Opera' star)
Lotte Lenya, whom I adored, taught me economy.''
In recent years, Arthur made guest appearances on shows including ''Curb Your Enthusiasm'' and ''Malcolm in the Middle.'' She was chairwoman of
the Art Attack Foundation, a non-profit performing arts scholarship
Arthur is survived by her sons and two granddaughters. No funeral
services are planned.
Rest in Peace, Bea. You brought joy to so many.
"It is never too late to be who you might have been" --anonymous
Tomorrow night, I'm getting a group together to go see
Gilbert & Sullivan's Ruddigore at Theater Ten Ten in NYC. If you would like to join us, please call me at 845-365-0720.
The Carol Channing and Harry Kullijian Foundation is currently
producing a PSA with confirmed participants including Alec
Mapa, Florence Henderson, Kevin Sorbo, Kate Linder, Donna Mills, Stefanie Powers, Lily Tomlin, JoAnne Worley and, of
course, Carol Channing.
As one of the PSA participants Florence Henderson said
"Anything we can do these days to support our youth and
encourage their education is too important to ignore," who
recently had a very positive result when over 700 students and
parents showed up for an appearance she at La Quinta Middle
School in San Diego to encourage the children.
The PSA will be edited and delivered for its premiere at the
national PTA meeting on May 2nd when they honor Carol Channing. It will then be distributed through both local and national
PTA offices as well as through out the California school system
by CSU Stanislaus with the help of former CA Secretary of
Education, Dave Long.
Contribute to the DR. CAROL CHANNING & HARRY KULLIJIAN FOUNDATION FOR THE ARTS: http://www.carolchanning.org/Foundation.htm
With grateful XOXOXs for your support!